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Germany

Schröder Now Faces Resistance from Greens

Even as Chancellor Schröder battles a rebellion within his own party over his proposed social and labor market reforms, discontent is now rumbling among the pacifist Greens - his junior coalition partner.

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Beleagured -- German Chancellor Schröder is under fire from all sides for his reforms package.

After facing scathing criticism from left-wingers in his Social Democratic Party (SPD) over his efforts to reform the generous German welfare system and rigid labor market, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder now has to contend with sceptical voices from his junior coalition partner, the Greens.

Several members of the pacifist Green party expressed grave doubts over the weekend over the Chancellor’s reform package known as "Agenda 2010", which was unveiled last month.

Reform proposals not "socially balanced"

The vice chairman of the Green parliamentary group Hans-Christian Ströbele told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that several core members as well as left-wingers of the Green parliamentary group had "huge problems" with Agenda 2010. "The proposals put forward by the Chancellor do not correspond to the social demands of the Greens. They have to be worked upon enormously and negotiated thoroughly before we can translate those into a law," Ströbele said.

Among other things, Ströbele has refused to accept limiting unemployment benefits to 18 months for unemployed persons below the age of 50 as recommended by Schröder.

Green Member of Parliament, Winfried Hermann was equally critical of the Chancellor’s reform proposals. "The left-wingers within the SPD and the Greens are largely in agreement when it comes to criticism of Schröder’s concept: it’s still not socially balanced," Hermann said.

Left-wingers see betrayal of party principles

It’s a view that’s widely echoed among the left-wingers and traditionalists both in the SPD and in the Greens, who view with mistrust the Chancellor’s attempts to tackle long-term structural problems that plague the world’s third-largest economy.

Many see the Chancellor’s loosening of job protection laws as breaking campaign promises in September’s general election. Similarly capping the amount and duration of unemployment benefit is regarded as a betrayal of basic party principles.

Several of the left-wingers in the SPD have now forced a special party conference on June 1 to discuss the Chancellor’s reform proposals, while some of the more intransigent critics are collecting signatures to poll the party’s 690,000 members on the proposals. Trade union leaders are threatening to use the May 1 holiday for mass demonstrations.

Green leadership plays down discontent

But despite the volley of criticism coming from Green members, the party’s leadership appears anxious to avoid any kind of conflict with the Chancellor and has thrown its weight behind the proposals.

Green Party leader Reinhard Bütikofer said on Saturday that he didn’t fear any conflict within the party ranks over the proposals as is the case in the SPD. "The entire package that the Chancellor has introduced is not fundamentally disputed by anyone," Bütikofer said. He conceded that there was simply need for discussion when it came to setting the amount and duration of unemployment benefit in stone.

The Greens parliamentary group whip Volker Beck too was eager to play down the discontent among the Greens over the proposals. He said on Sunday that the critical voices in the parliamentary group were to be seen as "constructive contributions" and that the doubters weren’t "questioning the reform package in its fundament, but rather targeting the way it would be implemented."

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